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Franz Bakery: Model for Sustainability

April 23, 2010 - 11:05am


“Bread has never tasted so sustainable” is not just another pithy marketing slogan to make Franz Bakery seem green. The 104-year-old company earned the rights to the promotional phrase—and has the baked goods to back it up. 

During the last five years, the largest family-owned bakery on the West Coast has incorporated scads of environmentally-friendly practices—from water efficiency to wind energy to waste reduction—into its six locations throughout the Northwest. At the top of that list is the flagship facility in Portland, Ore., which earned the company an energy champion award from the Department of Energy.

“We’ve gone through this bakery and really turned it around,” says Jim Kennison, general manager at Franz Bakery.

Like many companies, they started with the lights.

Ninety-six percent of the Portland bakery is now using high-efficiency light bulbs, Jim says. Most of the truck depots, where they park the delivery trucks, received similar treatment, thanks to an Oregon initiative that offers incentive rebates for businesses that opt for more efficient lighting.

The company saves energy in other places, too. Almost 75 percent of the bathrooms are equipped with automatic systems that reduce water flush and usage.

“We also have a heat-reflective roof that reduces energy demands up to 50 percent,” Jim says.

And one cannot walk through the bakery, not to mention the other five facilities and their office spaces, without finding a place to throw a plastic bottle or an old Oregonian newspaper. Jim says 99 percent of the bakeries and common areas have recycling bins.  

And the company recycles over 98 percent of production waste and reuses 99 percent of excess cardboard. 

The Portland facility also have a catalytic oxidizer, which works by pushing exhaust through 600-degree Fahrenheit ceramic tiles that vaporize ethanol into water and carbon dioxide. This was installed last year and reduces 33 percent of overall emissions and an estimated 95 percent of all ethanol emissions.

What about renewable energy?

Franz buys wind credits from Portland General Electric.  Every year, they prevent 316,909 lbs of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere—which is like taking 28 cars off the road.

Most food companies that want to be sustainable have something organic on the menu. Consider it covered. Last year, they started “Green Earth Baking,” a USDA organic certified bread line made with all natural ingredients. Ninety percent of the packaging for the products is made with biodegradable materials.

The company likes to give back to the community and be environmentally friendly, offering 100 percent of overages to food banks, which means they give any quality, unsold bread to local charities.

“We are leaders when it comes to sustainability,” Jim says.

The DOE agrees: Last year, they awarded Franz Bakery their “Save Energy Now Energy Champion” award for achieving more than 250,000 million Btu total energy savings — more than 15 percent total energy savings — at its Portland facility.

None of this, Jim says, could have happened without the help and enthusiasm of its employees.

“The culture here is one for all and all for one,” says Jim. “I think everyone here feels like part of the family, which is why I think that we are a success.” 

And why the bread has never tasted so sustainable.